I found myself exposed to the innocence of communism a few times. I had never seen Eastern Europe before the wall came down. But I had savoured the drab, greyness of a growing Varshava in 2005. I also strode my skeleton through the streets of Beijing in hope of finding an answer to the question in my hand. Whats communism? Easy to explain, difficult to understand. You need to meet some communists to see how it affects their life. My own view on it relies on the simplest positive facial expression – the smile. I have a smile which I change depending on the sort of smile or circumstance. I notice how bleak and innovatively bored the communist smile is. It is a sad state of affairs and makes me cringe. None more so than when I travelled on my own through the bleak streets of China, Russia and more blatantly Belarus.
Belarus really is the strangest place I have ever been. Quiet people. Really quiet people. Bland people. Some beautiful ladies. Some real characters, but all in the communist mould. Almost 20 years after the Berlin Wall came down and I still see communism in Belarus. People working in jobs where there is no justifiable reason for the job. People walking the streets dressed in grey and yellow. Young children dressed in anything they can really. Trains which could never become a party train. Belarus wasn’t a funeral type location. There was no sign of death. It was just that the signs of life had a weird quality. I write this now, because if I don’t my memories of Belarus will fade with time. Yes I’ve seen the Hutongs in Beijing and street sellers on every corner of China’s Communist Capital. Yes I’ve wandered Britishly through the main streets of Moscow and Warsaw. But they were all in Itchycoo Park style “so beautiful.” In Belarus I found myself dreaming of happinness for the people. I met a lot of Belarussians at different points. None of them could speak English, but it was the sense of belonging and an urge to understand me which I loved. For example the lady who served me beer at Minsk Station. I ordered two beers. Both different brands. She seemed really shocked I would buy two at once, and that they would be different. I never saw that cultural difference. The waiting for a receipt bit in the newspaper shop. The ticket inspector on the trains not saying a word. It is just surreal. Perhaps if I had been with a few mates I wouldn’t have noticed the bizarreness.
I couldn;t believe the difference between Russia and Belarus. Or Latvia and Belarus. Belarus had lost some kind of passion for life as far as I was concerned. It’s not part of the EU, you’ll need a VISA to visit it. You’ll stand out a mile in a bright shirt. It’s White Russia. It’s Weiss Russland. I spent 3 days there in total. Including staying in a hotel just 40 miles from the Chernobyl disaster by the gorgeous Berezina River near Bobruisck. They play volleyball on a beach by a river. They don’t speak. It’s surreal. It’s bizarre. It was one of those moments I will treasure, where I slowed my pulse down and stared at the sky searching for an answer. These people had grown up in communism in a land-locked poor former USSR state and they were happy and content with life as it was! I had thought about the times that me and my mates dressed up as frogs, policemen, nurses etc. This sort of behaviour would have you labelled a lunatic in Eastern Belarus. You just get on with life. There didn’t appear to be any rich people around. The capital Minsk offered me a glimpse of architecture and more life. I enjoyed the underground and Victory Square. You could have dropped a pin and heard it though. It’s something I’m proud of really, I’ve been to Belarus, I sampled these bizarre effects of communism and enjoyed it. These people are great. Grey and drab. But great.
As I write this, today I worked with a lady from Belarus in Bournemouth Pavilion and it brought the memory back. Her name is Tattiana. I’m sure I’ll sample some communism again. My definition of it going to be this:
Communism is different people’s desire to live their life in the same place with the same people with the same reward wearing the same clothes and the same smile. Living differently in similarity. Jonny Scott Blair on Communism. I’m not a Communist myself, I’m not sure what I’d be defined as, perhaps a Carsonite, a Thatcherite or as I would have it, I am a United Kingdom Northern Irish Unionist. It doesn’t mean a lot to many. I’m a man of different smiles.
Some Communists and Ex-Communists I’ve met – Chinese (Yang, Li Ning, Li Ting, Rita Wang), East Germans (Rene, Andreas, Gabriel, Tina), Russians (Tanja, Ivan), Latvians (Monta, Janis, Mark, Davis), Belarussians (Taisa, Natalja, Tattiana), Estonians (Natalja), Polish (Piotr K, Piotr O, Compiotr, Rafal, Artur….endless list).